Higher Education, Knowledge Democracy and Sustainability
Pre-COP26 Webinar Series
Much recent debate about higher education has focussed on rankings, financing and student mobility. However, the COVID 19 pandemic, the rise of authoritarian nationalism, increasing inequalities and importantly the climate crisis, have raised questions about the social relevance of Higher Education Institutions. Given the urgency of these challenges, it has become clear that universities have the social responsibility to advance our understanding of complex issues and achieve the sustainable development goals.
Higher education, with its resources (human, physical, digital) can address knowledge and learning deficits and contribute to a new sustainability paradigm. University knowledge systems however are in most cases based on Western models, which fail to recognise and value different kinds of knowledges, epistemologies and knowledge cultures. This divide relates not only to academics in the global North and global South, but also to divisions between researchers and practitioners as well as those shut out from knowledge processes due to poverty, race, gender, and other forms of marginalization. Yet, in order to deal with complex problems and identify solutions at the local and global levels we need to link multiple areas of knowledge and networks of actors. Knowledge sharing is thus central to creating effective strategies for change.
Universities can be socially responsible by integrating multiple forms of knowledge and promoting a deeper examination of power and politics involved in knowledge production. Social responsibility in higher education should be understood within the framework of knowledge democracy. This entails intentionally linking values of justice, fairness and action to the process of producing and using knowledge. Key features of socially responsible higher education include for example: the recognition of diversities of knowledge systems and epistemologies; coherence and integration of teaching; and research and engagement missions that are contextually responsive, locally rooted, place based and linguistically plural.
These issues are explored in the book Socially Responsible Higher Education – International Perspectives on Knowledge Democracy. The collection offers original concepts, ideas and case studies to support universities and develop the capacities of the new generation of researchers. Readers will find different examples of social responsibility which build on community-based research in the global South and contemporary theories of knowledge democracy. In contrast to most publications, the book features a diverse set of authors from Africa, Latin America and Asia bringing perspectives from parts of the world often underrepresented in international debates. The book is edited by the UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility, co-chaired by Budd Hall of the University of Victoria, in Canada, and Rajesh Tandon of PRIA, in India.
The book will be launched via a webinar organised by the Centre for Research and Development in Adult and Lifelong Learning (University of Glasgow) and the Low and Middle Income Countries Research Network (University of Glasgow).
Part of the COP26 activities at the College of Social Sciences, University of Glasgow
View the full programme of events organised across the University of Glasgow here